Created by Negros Occidental organic food champions and Slow Food advocates, there’s more to Lanai than meets the eye
ANCX staff | March 26, 2022
Bacolod may be known for its delicious food, but its dining establishments aren’t exactly the most Instagram-friendly spaces. That’s why Lanai by Fresh Start is a breath of fresh air.
The three-month-old restaurant on the city’s Araneta Highway paid careful attention to its facade and interiors, filling it with wooden louvered windows, lush greenery and furniture made from natural materials. The overall atmosphere evokes that Negrense lifestyle stereotype of languid naps on windy afternoons by the porch — or in this case, the veranda.
But there’s more to this new haunt of restaurants than meets the eye. It is owned by the same owners as Fresh Start, Ramon “Chin-chin” Uy and his wife Francine’s organic store, cafe, juice bar and salad bar in Bacolod. The Uys are known champions of the slow food movement in Negros, and Lanai serves as another venue to showcase the possibilities of what organic produce can do.
Everything served at Lanai is farm-to-table organic, from the food to the cocktails. It helps that the restaurant is located inside the farm itself. “Everything is prepared from scratch without any artificial ingredients,” says Chin-chin. “We’ve based the menu on what’s available at our organic farm and our partners’ farms.”
The restaurant’s objective is to highlight organic ingredients, fodder and arches of taste. “The ingredients in the Ark of Taste are endangered heritage foods that are sustainably produced, uniquely flavored and part of a distinct ecoregion,” explains the owner of Negrense Farm. “The arch is maintained by the international Slow Food movement. Examples of taste ark ingredients that we highlight are our Batuan, Kadios, Tinigib Corn, Criollo Cacao, Landang native tapioca, adlai and diwal.
Other Characteristics Lanai by Fresh Start is proud: its cheeses are 100% Negros; their meats are growth hormone-free, antibiotic-free, and GMO-free; they only use healthy sweeteners; and they don’t use artificial flavor enhancers.
Ingredients are always the star of the Lanai table, says Chin-chin. Their salads and pizzas are bestsellers, along with Muscovado Marlin, Guava Pork Belly and Cansi Ala Pobre. For over 15 years, the Uys have worked with some of the best chefs in the country who understand and support the work they do – the farm meets the needs of chefs while the chefs create unique recipes for Fresh Start. Patrick Go, who has Ilonggo roots, helped create Lanai’s food menu along with Gab Melocoton and JJ Chua. Meanwhile, Manila’s popular eccentric liquid chef, Kalel Demetrio, crafted the drink and cocktail recipes.
As for the beautiful interiors, they have Alexis Ilustre to thank. She is a young designer from Bacolod who, sensitive to the concept of the restaurant she embellishes, insisted on using local materials and works by Negrense craftsmen. “Some of the furniture and construction was made in our own carpentry and machine shop,” says Chin-chin. “It was actually one of our favorite projects during the pandemic.”
With its open-air setup and close-to-nature dining concept, you could say that Lanai is a restaurant not just for the new normal, but for a new world – a world that has been changed by fear and disease, one where eating better and healthier has become armor. In short, a restaurant for a new beginning.